Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2016

Does Ocon ‘know how to deal with Verstappen’? Maybe not

2017 F1 season

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One of the most difficult questions F1 drivers faced last season was this: Just how do you overtake Max Verstappen?

The question drove Kimi Raikkonen to distraction. The Ferrari driver clashed with his Red Bull rival several times but Verstappen came out on top of their memorable bouts at the Circuit de Catalunya, Hungaroring and Spa-Francorchamps.

Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, European Formulka Three, Hockenheimring, 2014
Verstappen and Ocon fought to the end in F3
Verstappen also kept Lewis Hamilton behind at Suzuka and drove Sebastian Vettel to apoplexy in Mexico. Red Bull’s teenage superstar outfoxed champion after champion.

But a rival from the opposite end of the grid reckons he has the key to unlock Verstappen’s defensive moves. Speaking to Canal Plus recently Esteban Ocon explained why he knows how to beat Verstappen.

“In Formula Three we would bang wheels all the time and there would be some brave overtaking,” said Ocon.

“If I didn’t lift, he would just hit me. But I know how to deal with him. You move to one side and cross over and pass him on the other.”

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Having started just nine grands prix so far Ocon has had little opportunity to duel with Verstappen in F1 cars. And on the one occasion they have encountered each other – during Verstappen’s heroic slog through the field in Brazil – the circumstances hardly made for a fair fight. F1’s highest-downforce car versus F1’s lowest-downforce car in the rain was only ever going to end one way.

Their 2014 Formula Three battle was a much fairer fight. Ocon prevailed over the course of the season, taking the title while Verstappen ended the year third.

In their wheel-to-wheel battles, however, it was usually Verstappen who came out on top. And though Ocon’s Verstappen-beating tactics were seldom seen in practice, he’s not wrong when he points out his rival was unafraid of risking contact.

Verstappen versus Ocon: 2014 Formula Three championship

Round 3: Silverstone race three

Winner: Verstappen

Verstappen caught Ocon unaware with this exquisitely-judged move into The Loop for second place.

Round 13: Spa race one

Winner: Verstappen

Ten races passed in the mammoth, 33-round championship before the pair tackled each other seriously again. Verstappen won all three races at Spa-Francorchamps and took the first by passing Ocon – and Antonio Fuoco – on the drag to Les Combes.

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Round 14: Spa race two

Winner: Verstappen

It briefly seemed Ocon would have revenge in race two as he got ahead of Verstappen, only for his rival to reverse the move. (Also, wind on to 41:42 for an example of Ocon trying and failing to execute his switchback pass on Verstappen).

Round 15: Spa race three

Winner: Verstappen

Verstappen completed his hat-trick by taking the lead off Ocon on lap two. Ocon later overtook Verstappen but was brilliantly re-passed (at 21:31).

Round 16: Norisring race one

Winner: Verstappen

By this point Ocon must’ve dreaded seeing car number 30 appear in his mirrors. He had only taken the lead off Felix Rosenqvist three laps earlier when Verstappen sprung another move on him for the win.

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Round 21: Moscow Raceway race three

Winner: Ocon

A ‘green-white chequer’ restart at Moscow Raceway gave Verstappen a shot at passing race-long leader Ocon. He grabbed the lead at the final corner and began the last lap in the lead but Ocon was coming back at him and reclaimed his position at turn one.

Round 21: Red Bull Ring race one

Winner: Verstappen (controversially)

At the next race Verstappen got away fractionally better from second on the grid than pole sitter Ocon. But his attempt to pass at turn one proved too optimistic: he hit the kerb and knocked his rival into a spin. The stewards ruled it was a racing accident, but Ocon ended the race point-less while Verstappen took fourth following a penalty for another incident.

Round 29: Imola race two

Winner: Verstappen

Now backed by Red Bull and heading to F1, Verstappen was relegated from pole to eleventh on the grid by one of three ten-place grid penalties for a single engine change in race two at Imola. In response he went on a rampage and ultimately snatched second place from Antonio Giovinazzi at the finishing line. Prior to that he also drove around the outside of Ocon, his rival by now clearly points-gathering to ensure the title went his way.

Round 33: Hockenheim race three

Winner: Verstappen

The pair underlined their racing credentials by continuing to fight each other as if the championship was at stake long after it had been decided. In the season finale Ocon pounced on Verstappen for sixth at an earlier restart (at 28:36) but Verstappen reeled him in and passed, the pair dazzling with their millimetre-perfect driving once again.

Following his move to Force India this year Ocon should have much more competitive hardware underneath him this season. Here’s hoping it means we get to see more action like that.

2017 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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66 comments on “Does Ocon ‘know how to deal with Verstappen’? Maybe not”

  1. Ocon needs a reallity check, he also commented that he and Verstappen hated eachother, well he probably hated Max but there is no reason for Max to hate Ocon, he humiliated ocon the track (2 sec faster in the rain on the norischring)

    1. yup ^_^

  2. Ocon is becoming a loud mouth like Sainz. Always putting Max as their benchmark with alot of words how they can defeat Verstappen…..only to realise they are not even close of being in the same league as him.

    1. Yep, Ocon seems lately also infected with the Sainz-uenza virus.

  3. Red Bull’s teenage superstar outfoxed champion after champion.

    Except Nico Rosberg.

    1. apart from at Silverstone, Brazil & Canada I guess you’re right ;)

    2. @sravan-pe Strictly speaking Verstappen never raced Rosberg when Rosberg was a champion. And as @bezza695 there were plenty of occasions when they did take each other on and Verstappen came out on top (I’d add Germany to that list).

      1. @keithcollantine
        I can’t agree with Germany. Rosberg made a perfectly legit move, a move which Verstappen has done plenty of times and he was given an (IMO) very unfair penalty.

        1. Exactly! Again Ves moved under braking causing Ros to alter his line and “force” him off track.

        2. no rosberg did the same as toi hamilton, see onboard video and in both cases he does not try to steer to the apex, both times he does without any subtility push lewis and max of the track

          i bet one of the reasons Rosberg quits (see after last race interviews) is that he is scared to get humiliated again by max for another year

        3. Rosberg’s undoing in Germany was his trademark straight wheels as he sailed past the apex, not trying to follow the racing line and only turning as he approached the far edge of the track.

          Max did him by changing his line under braking, a bit, and not giving it up but going off to make the point.

        4. Just like Rosberg collided into Kimi after his dive inside? Guess you left that out for conveniance.

          All racers do things that aren’t fully fair at times.

      2. Champion or not. In the whole of 2016 season (and Brasil helped) Verstappen has overtaken every driver on the grid except Hamilton. That says a lot.

      3. @keithcollantine I wouldn’t add Germany to that list and I knew Rosberg wasn’t champion yet when he overtook Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. I just thought it just needed a mentioning at least (his overtake I mean).

        1. Overtake of the year that… But mostly Max does not loose wheel to wheel fights, unless conditions greatly favour the other driver.

    3. @sravan-pe Verstappen took on Rosberg five teams and beat him four times.

      1. @lolzerbob
        Verstappen took Hamilton on once and beat him. Same with Raikkonen. He took on Rosberg and lost twiceif you include Germany, which I believe should be included. I don’t know about your opinion though.

        (Vettel did manage to overtake Verstappen in Abu Dhabi, of course)

        1. @sravan-pe When did Verstappen take on Hamilton and beat him? Verstappen beat Rosberg in Canada with great defending, Britain with a great move, Germany where Rosberg messed up and was penalised, Brazil where Verstappen made a daring move. The only place he lost was Abu Dhabi.

          1. @lolzerbob
            Suzuka.

            The only place he lost was Abu Dhabi.

            Yup. Only Rosberg (and Vettel as weel of course) managed to overtake Verstappen over the entire season, but Hamilton couldn’t in Suzuka.

  4. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    4th January 2017, 12:51

    Oh well, give the lad a break. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of self-promotion. Instead of Wehrlein, it was always going to be Ocon that was Mercedes’ best answer to the likes of Verstappen. Whether he will actually prove to be as good as Verstappen is another matter entirely.

    And credit where it’s due, Ocon was outstanding in Formula 3. As a rookie he steamrolled highly creditable returners like Rosenqvist, Blomqvist, Auer and Giovanazzi, and was unquestionably the most complete driver on the grid, teaming a superb turn of raw speed with a calm and mature approach to a nascent championship campaign as his momentum built in the early rounds. Compared with Verstappen, yes, the fact that Max was in his first season in cars and racing for the Van Amersfort minnow compared with the Prema Powerteam powerhouse does likely explain why he wasn’t more of a factor for the title.

    But equally, that considered, Ocon was certainly the more cerebral operator in 2014, and even today Verstappen still has an instinct towards making 50/50 manoeuvres. Max Verstappen cannot walk on water…yet…

    1. @william-brierty I completely agree Ocon was a worthy champion. That was a terrific season.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        4th January 2017, 14:58

        @keithcollantine – A great season from Ocon and a great season in general to witness both from trackside and via the free online streaming. Articles like this is what is possible when there aren’t draconian content restrictions in place, like that which absurdly hangs over GP2 and GP3. Thanks FOM…

        …hopefully next year a melting-pot of quick returners like Callum Illot and (probably) Maxi Günther and promising newcomers like Lando Norris and Mick Schumacher will produce a similarly excellent season. I can’t help but think Illot and Prema will be hard to beat…

        1. I only hope the Prema cars don’t have an even bigger advantage because of all the work which was done in behalf of Stroll (F3 cars aren’t spec cars like GP2 & GP3). It could be great season looking at the grid, much more so the last season(s).

      2. didn’t ocon endup last in DTM and didn’t pascal won the DTM champioship ?
        Ocon is good but not as good as he thinks himself

      3. ocon was completely outclassed by Max in 2014, max had many car problems in the start of the season but on head to head battles ocon got humiliated

        1. No, no, you’re doing it all wrong!! Say that Ocon is very, very good but still got outclassed and humiliated as the champ he is, bc else MVer wouldn’t necessariliy be all that good either.

  5. Vettel at Mexico yea if you onclude corner cutting to hold your position. He has however made F1 very interesting by not just giving up defending and waiting for a driver to pass under drs. You can defend still just a new type of tactic.

  6. In F3 Ocon had the best car, best engine, best team, so it made Verstappen even look better in this perspective

  7. Don’t forget “I can’t pass this guy’ from Hamilton at Australia, Mercedes power versus TR (lack off?) power.
    Australia set it off, Verstappen became a significant competitor right from race 1 on.

    Ocon gave Verstappen a pretty good fight in Brazil (more recently).
    Verstappen passed about everyone wihtout much of a fight, Ocon, Perez and Vettel took a bit longer where maybe Ocon took the longest… I consider that good driving in a Manor.

    The way Rosberg talked about Verstappen after Abu Dhabi said it all…. Rosberg didn’t even notice Vettel on third it was Verstappen who gut stuck in his head.

    1. Totally agree. Reminds me of Rosberg’s face when Verstappen was standing in the room after the race of Brazil. After getting a towel to get rid of the sweat on his head, he is just staring at Verstappen in awe. Priceless!

      1. @svennheiser I had to check on Youtube… nah. It was typical Nico-and-Lewis-can’t-see-each-other-so-closely!

        1. @omarr-pepper
          In future times my friend, save yourself the checking. Same goes for the Abu Dhabi-‘happening’ (in reality, after and with regard to the race and championship, Ros was talking about the Vet-attack and how he had to fend him off). MVer-fans give Augmented Reality a whole nother dimension.

    2. The way Rosberg talked about Verstappen after Abu Dhabi said it all…. Rosberg didn’t even notice Vettel on third it was Verstappen who gut stuck in his head.

      Good point! I noticed that too in the interviews after the race: Rosberg said “…the emotions were unbeareable when my engineer told me it was critical for the championship to pass the car ahead, and of all the guys on the grid, it had to be Max in front…”

      1. Well ya…Max had several contacts with various drivers throughout the season, and almost decided the WDC for the world when he whacked Nico in Mexico. Of course he was a concern for Nico.

        1. There are many other drivers who had several times contact with other drivers, Vettel, Alonso, Kvyat, Sainz, Palmer, Hamilton and Hulkenberg all did too, yet they all weren’t such a big concern to him.

        2. Eh… Nico couldn’t get passed VES in Canada (breaked too late, rear’s locked up and caused ROS spinning) and VES also defended succesfully against Raikonnen at Hungary and Spa and then HAM at Suzuka. Nico was right to fear VES’ defensive qualities. Meanwhile, apart from the Canada spin, Nico himself made contact on almost every pass attempt on frontrunners in 2016: VES in Germany, HAM in Austria, RAI in Malaysia and then VES again in Mexico.

      2. yes that was very amusing, he even said it again at the FIA awards

  8. At least Ocon already has overtaken Verstappen, which can’t be said of a number of other drivers on the F1 grid. Ricciardo still hasn’t overtaken Max properly, while Max in return has overtaken Daniel 5 times (Malaysia ’15, Austin ’15, Austria ’16, Germany ’16, and Brazil ’16). Kvyat, Button and Massa also have never overtaken him, and I have my doubts about Alonso, Perez and Hulkenberg (I don’t seem to remember them).

    Bottas (Austria ’15 and Baku ’16), Nasr (Japan ’15 lap one), Sainz (Spain ’15), Grosjean (Brazil ’15) Maldonado (Austria ’15), Vettel, Raikkonen, Rosberg, and Hamilton all have done so. The only driver on the grid who Max still hasn’t managed to overtake is Hamilton (he came close at China ’16 in a Toro Rosso in the last few laps, but came 1s short because he out-braked himself earlier in the race after the SC restart).

    With the clarification of the rules about moving in the braking zone, overtaking has become much easier as it was, so I’m sure, when given a good car, Ocon would be able to do it again, the question only will be, how many times will Max do it in return?

    1. The rules haven’t really changed, only clarified.

      The clarification of the rules doesn’t immediately implay Verstappen was in the wrong at any given moment.
      Verstappen outsmarted other drivers and explored the very outher limits…

      Moving under breaking..? A driver is allowed to choose his line going into the corner…
      Choosing position very late… ? A driver is allowed to move before or after the attacker chooses his line…

      Mexico was just challenging the FIA, if Rosberg and Hamilton can cut a corners why could Verstappen not do the same…

  9. As Ocon usually started ahead and Verstappen being one of the best overtakers, obviously he was going to lose out most times. But he already has the experience from those on-track meetings how to handle Verstappen if they come up against each other again and knows what to do better, and that’s what he was referring to I think. In GP3 he was showing better signs during wheel-to-wheel action, so I think he wouldn’t be too troubled at the front of the F1 field. Sure, Verstappen is going to come out on top of these fights more often than not regardless, but that doesn’t mean he’ll win everything if he’s not the quickest.

  10. RossoTorro (@)
    4th January 2017, 14:37

    Great another driver suffering from the Verstappen syndrome, they should get together and form some kind of support group.

  11. My first prediction for 2017 is that Hamilton and Verstappen will make contact at least 3 times.

    1. We could only hope so, because that would mean their cars are pretty equal. But you’re right, both drivers put their car in such a way that they expect the others to not crash into them, and both are too stubborn to budge…it would be Hamilton-Massa all over again.

    2. Bonus note: At 14:15 on the Spa race three video you can see why Verstappen thought his turn one move in last year’s Belgian Grand Prix would work.

      1. If you re-watch the start of the ’15 F1 race, you can also see Vettel doing the exact same thing without it going wrong because he was given enough room.

      2. Vettel simply could taken had a penalty or causing a collision, Raikkonen being in between was his ‘get out of jail for free card’. Vettel was involved in to many first lap incidents, taking to much risk.

  12. Some battles these two had. Ocon another one of the biggest talents on the planets, incredible pace and such racing consistency. Verstappen though, a natural feel for the circuit that few have ever achieved. I loved that 2014 season so much.

  13. It will be interesting to see how good Ocon actually is. Perez is a highly respected driver, and thus a good benchmark for him. It’s not unlikely that Ocon will regularly meet Vandoorne on track as well, if the Force India is able to match Mclaren-Honda which are expected to make a leap forward. So many rookies to look out for, and many good benchmark-team mates such as Perez and Alonso.

    1. I hope you mean McLare-Honda is able to match Force India as i didn’t see much improvement in the end of the season. Ocon will be second driver to Perez of FI that will be new to him.

      As the notion Ocon know how to handle Max i don’t think even Max doesn’t handle himself. Ocon in the topteam in the best car was handed his behind when they fought for postion. I loved the battles in 2014-2015 F3 while the last year it was really bad almost halve of the field wasn’t there and one team was in front. (that was almost F1 like)

  14. wow, after seeing the 3 Spa movies it is Verstappen who impresses me the most.
    Race instinct moves and re-passing with balls from steel.

    Brilliant stuff!

  15. I am reminded of an aphorism:

    “In theory, theory and practise are the same. In practise, theory and practise are completely different”.

  16. The new aerodynamic rules mean one can’t assume overtaking in general will be as easy as it was in the past. With the discarding of the Token system one would hope all 4 engine manufacturers have a more or less equal power unit. The increased downforce means more turbulance for following cars, making it more difficult for them to get within DRS range. So it may that overtaking in general will be more difficult this year.

  17. Ocon’s talking about how to pass Verstappen. Most of the video evidence presented isn’t relevant to Ocon’s comments because it shows Ocon failing to defend his position from Verstappen. I haven’t read the source of Ocon’s comments but he’s not quoted as saying that he’s figured out how to defend his position from Verstappen, which is a different challenge and one which the evidence suggests he hasn’t known how to do in the past.

    Regardless of what Ocon actually said he’s had more wheel-to-wheel experience with Verstappen than anyone else on the F1 grid. We’ve quickly seen “how do I pass Verstappen?” become a source of apoplexy for much more experienced and accomplished drivers than Ocon. Ocon appears to reflect on and learn from his experiences; his battles with Verstappen in GP3 would still be percolating in his head and he’s doubtless still thinking about what he can do differently going forward. 2014 is a long time ago for these guys. All that’s been proven in my mind is that Ocon didn’t know how to defend from Verstappen in 2014. That may still be the case in 2017 but I reckon that thanks to his previous experience he’ll probably be an interesting souce of new and exciting defensive tactics against Verstappen out on the track.

    1. Oops, F3, not GP3

  18. I believe Verstappen passed Ocon in Singapore too.

  19. The only way to deal with someone intent on crashing rather than being overtaken is to let the crash happen a few times. Especially with the stricter interpretations, Verstappen will learn quickly.

    Ocon and Verstappen crashed several times, so they both know how to do that.

  20. Well, if Ocon thinks he knows how to beat Max Verstappen, then just show it! Max was the most difficult driver to pass last year and will be as long as he drives in a competitive car. He never hands out presents, not even as an elf, and you really have to race hard to get by. Reigning Worldchampion Nico Rosberg was close to a nervous brakedown when he was forced to race “Mad Max” to secure his championship in the last race of the season.

    Recently Niki Lauda stated on Austrian tv that the biggest fear is that nobody knows when Max will reach his limits, because at 18 years old he is already just as good as all the experienced top-drivers of the field. In the same program Helmut Marko stated that the limits of Max Verstappen were not even in sight. That in mind must really scare the other drivers, because one of the strongest points of Max is that he addapts very quickly to new racing-cars. Put him in whatever car and he will be quick straightaway. And with all the new chances to the 2017 cars, that could be a big advantage for Max in fighting for the Championship this year.

    In the second half of 2013, a then 15 year old Max Verstappen tested for five different Formula Renault 2.0-teams (a total of nine testdays) and was quick from the start, braking three trackrecords (at Alcarras, Hungaroring and Barcelona). The last test in 2013 was for a F3-team, setting the fastest time. After this test the decision was made to skip Formula Renault 2.0 and go straight for the European F3-Championship, driving for van Amersfoort Racing. It was a great battle between Ocon and Verstappen. And altough Ocon won the title, Max won the most races (10), including six wins in a row, never seen before in this championship. Max earned himself a F1-contract with Red Bull and became the youngest F1 driver in history for Toro Rosso in 2015. Everything goes quick with Max and after just four races into the 2016 season he was promoted to Red Bull itself, winning his first race for the team in a totally new car as, again, the youngest Grand Prix winner ever! Six podiums would follow. In Brazil he gave a masterclass of how to race in the rain. And race he did in 2016, attracting the most off the attention and giving journalist a lot to write about and tv-commentators a lot to shout about! No matter wich team he joins, he will make it better. That was the case with Van Amersfoort Racing, with Toro Rosso and now Red Bull. The reason? His pure love for true racing!

    If Red Bull produces a good car with a reliable engine, Max Verstappen has a big change of winning the 2017 F1-championship as the youngest F1-champion in history. I said it many times, in the more then 35 years that I follow Formula 1 (my first favourite driver was a guy named René Arnoux!), Max is the greatest talent that ever entered F1! The only one that can beat the record of the allmighty Michael Schumacher (seven Worldtitles), is a driver, who once as a little kid kissed the same Schumacher on the cheek: Max Verstappen!

  21. I believe the next great talent in F1 is Stoffel VanDoorne, not Ocon.
    Ocon has shown nothing like Max did at Torro Rosso.
    Sainz has shown that he is fast, but lacks the racer killer instinct that Max has.

    Max came into F1 and changed it in many ways: overtakes, defending, wet weather driving, race lines, preparation.

    All F1 drivers believe they are the best. They have to.

  22. I did hear Max moaning about not being able to pass Kvyat in Singapore. He succeeded en the end and how. love this driver. Love his comments just after the race when he is still pumping adrenaline. He might sound arrogant at times but he is Dutch and they can be very direct and straightforward and to the point. That’s
    a big difference.

  23. Round 15: Spa race three: Ocon overtakes Verstappen but is brilliantly re-passed (at 21:31).

    What an amazing move!

  24. After watching these videos, I’m wondering why I’m watching F1 and not F3!

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